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The Dreaded Normal MRI Results

The very first MRI I had back in 2009, when my symptoms began, was examined by a neurologist, which he found a "small, nonspecific lesion" and mentioned I should keep a watch on it with future MRIs. My symptoms then started as left-sided, mild hemiparesis and left unilateral paresthesia. I noticed it in my left thigh, and it gradually radiated down to my left leg and up my back to the left arm. Of course, at the time like many others with unilateral hemiparesis/paresthesia, I thought I was having a stroke. The constant "buzz" and weakness persist for several days before dying out and transitioning to a chronic but transient reoccurance of the same symptoms, but albeit very faint in comparison to the episode that lasted several days. This transient buzzing has never stopped since.

One later in 2010, I experience what I believe was the Lhermitte's Sign. I was talking to a customer and leaned my head to the right, about 45 degrees, which then triggered a painful electrical shock jolting down my neck and right side. My grimacing and wincing response to the pain was outwardly noticeable, as the customer asked if I was all right. I told them I was fine, of course, even though my neck and side was burning with the aftershock of the jolt. This carries on for about a year every time I tilt my neck in that same position.

Then, two months ago was the doozy. 6 years after my first episode, I experience what I believe is my second full-blown episode. At first, I believed it was a migraine aura with the whole nausea, faint spots in front of the eyes but not enough to cloud vision entirely, and a tension headache. This builds for an hour until I'm released from class and drive home. As soon as I get in the house the spots get bigger and explode into white. They are becoming so opaque, big, and numerous, that I cannot even see to read my textbook. This continues for an hour before my left side explodes and lights up. This is no longer the ignorable and tolerance faint, transient buzzing. The intensity of the paresthesia has increased to a painful level, and I now begin to notice a clear division between my flaming, electric left side and my normal, unaffected right side -- from my scalp to my toes. Realizing that this was no migraine and that it was episode number 2, I begin to write every symptom thereafter.

As this is already lengthy, I'll sum that symptom list up. The next day, the total numbness and weakness kicked it. It affects my walking so much I end up with shin splints in my lower left leg within two days. The total numbness and weakness last for two days, and it transitions back into more of the paresthesia. Although every area of my left side was fair game, it kinda came and went like Christmas tree lights set on blink so that a group of lights light up, then fade, then another group lights up, then fades, and so on -- several localized areas of my skin "light up" then fade as other areas begin to "light up" and fade just the same. I actually kinda thought this part was pretty interesting and cool, hah! Then after a day of Christmas tree paresthesia, it fades into similar normal transient buzz, but with greater intensity this time -- more on pair with the intensity of the first episode.

And that's kind of my story. I had a second MRI a year after my first episode, which the radiologist and my primary said was normal. When I told him about the lesion that the neurologist found, he said he didn't see it. I just had my third MRI done last week, of course because of this 2nd episode, and it was normal as well. I'm still waiting on an appointment with my new primary to cover the specifics, but I can't help to feel extremely deflated and disappointed at this time, and I'm just so very confused as well. I'm currently in nursing school with a year and a half left, so this second episode is just very inopportune. I had to remediate and come back to perform hands-on skills that I just couldn't do the first time because my left hand was locking up and the paresthesia flared up so bad that I couldn't concentrate. I scrawled like a baby to the instructor that day. The whole ordeal was just overwhelmingly mortifying.

I just dunno where to go from here, and I feel like a hypochondriac talking to most everyone else. The neurologist who found the first lesion is no longer in practice anymore, so it makes things harder surrounding the elusive "small, nonspecific lesion" that no one else seems to find. I think I'm just in need of moral support right now from those that understand, because I'm feeling so defeated and have no idea what direction to take from here. ;{

  1. Hi bifflez,

    It sounds like you've had a long journey to this point already. I'm sorry that your original neurologist is no longer practicing and that current doctors are reluctant to diagnose because of what your MRI shows or doesn't show.

    If you haven't consulted a neurologist who specializes in MS, I recommend that you seek on out. You can search for an MS-specialist or MS clinic on the Consortium of MS Centers' website.

    On a personal note, all of my lesions have been in my cervical spine and my brain remains clear of lesions after having been diagnosed with MS for 10 years.

    Good luck,

    1. Hi,

      Any update?

      Your story is very similar to mine.... I found this post because I too feel almost helpless.

      1. Always get a 3T MRI done, it's a stronger MRI that shows more lesions. That's how I finally got diagnosed with MS, despite having 2 prior brain MRI's done years earlier with the weaker MRI machines. Don't even mess with those weaker MRI machines. The 3T MRI showed that my brain had MANY lesions. Always also get both a brain AND a cervical spine MRI. Sometimes the Doctors only want to do the brain MRI, but INSIST on both!

        1. This is the truth. A MRI with a machines less than 3 Teslas will only show lesions if they are really bad and now they do make stronger machines but none are found locally to me. I have had two brain MRIs on a 3 Tesla machine and both times the radiologists report is "confluent periventricular and juxtacortical lesions" and microvascular ischemic changes. I looked at the MRIs and counted 23 lesions in the gray matter and the "confluent" part means the lesions have grown together around the ventrical and cortex. Yes, I am told I am normal and this has nothing to do with my long list of symptom and I did get one "nonspecific demyelinating disease of the central nervous system" diagnosis from a neurologist who hated me. 😉

      2. Hi Bifflez,

        I'm sorry you are having trouble with MRI's! My lesions were written off as headaches or age, not the real problem. The small punctate lesions in the deep white matter of the frontal lobes, a bigger lesion further back and occipital lobe lesions. My eyes look perfect and my vision sucks, looks like I'm in a swimming pool looking under water! Through a broken window or dot to dot! I had to go to Issaquah for a second opinion and that got my dx. It took a long time because my normal LP read by an incompetent neuro had a protein level of 77. Field of vision was abnormal, lesion on my thoracic that was seen in 1992 was seen by my specialist in 2012 but the team went to the radiologist and he said artifact
        But my neuro said it was a lesion but got overruled. Hang in their, lesions will show up!

        1. Lumbar Puncture

        2. Its interesting you are also in the Northwest region- so am I. Have you read the study done by Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason? They have been hunting for reasons why there are higher amts of people in the Northwest region who suffer with autoimmune diseases. The classify it so far as a mystery. My primary care physician actually told me about this a few years ago. There is no history of MS in my family- but I'm diagnosed with it- I was not raised in this region- migrated here a little over 10 years ago. Wasn't even raised in the US. My dr said this is the mystery- people with no genetic propensity for auto immune diseases- people from areas which normally don't have a tendency to get auto immune diseases- find that they develop them when moving to this area?? That is strange!! I hope that the researches will be able to figure this thing out.

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